Local government drive to train management in trust and communication

Three local government bodies have united for a bid to build people's trust in local government by training all levels of public service management in taking responsibility for their organisation's reputation.

Martin Reeves: The report is about "distributing leadership"
Martin Reeves: The report is about "distributing leadership"

It marks the first time that comms guidelines have been set out jointly by the body for local government communicators, LGcommunications, the Local Government Association and Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers (SOLACE).

The effort was kicked off this morning at SOLACE's annual summit with the presentation of a report called Building Trust, which was authored by all three bodies and was called "highly significant" by SOLACE chief executive Martin Reeves.

"This is the first time you’ve had the organisations speaking with one voice on the subject," he said. "It sets the context and states that we now all have responsibility to build trust into all our transactions with the public."

Reeves said the push was about "distributing leadership" and giving all levels of public service management responsibility for their organisation’s reputation.

He said this meant "pushing hard" in the coming months to develop training in building trust for senior managers.

"We need inherently practical action to emerge from this," he added.

According to the report the number of people who trust their local council has increased from 52 per cent in 2001 to 65 per cent in 2012.

Nonetheless, the report calls for further improvement through a "nuanced approach" to increasing public confidence.

Reeves highlighted public sector cuts, and reforms in areas such as public health blurring the lines between public service providers, as key reasons for SOLACE throwing its weight behind the work.

The launch of the report follows months of consultation, and comes in the wake of two previous reports by LGcommunications – Reputation, launched in 2005, and Reputation 2, launched in 2010.

Cormac Smith, chairman of LGcommunications, said Building Trust was most significant in the "unity of purpose" it represented.

"It’s the first time we’ve had these three bodies come together to back something and that is the only way we are going to achieve what we set out to here.

"We need armies of people within public authorities to tell our stories. The comms job will be much more about helping others in an organisation communicate, whether through management or through the frontline staff."

Earlier this year Reeves warned that councils risked "alienating" the public unless they changed their comms.

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